Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Gabrielle Reece was cast as the She-Hulk in a failed She-Hulk TV pilot.
The creation of the She-Hulk came directly as a result of the success of the late 1970s Incredible Hulk TV series. Marvel was afraid that the show would eventually introduce a female version of the Hulk so they made sure that they invented one first. I covered it in an old Comic Book Legends revealed here (Spider-Woman owes her creation to a similar scenario). Reader Stephonie wrote in to ask:
There’s a legend where the late Bill Bixby developed and filmed a tv pilot spinoff based upon The Incredible Hulk. It was supposed to star Gabrielle Reece as She-Hulk. I’ve tried to find photo evidence of this but couldn’t find anything. Could you investigate this?
Sure thing, Stephonie! Read on for the answer!
In 1990, Marvel was owned by New World Pictures. They hired writer/producer Jill Sherman Donner (who had written a number of episodes of The Incredible Hulk with her writing partner, Karen Harris) to develop a She-Hulk pilot. Despite his death in the television film “The Death of the Incredible Hulk,” Bill Bixby was set to appear in the pilot as David Banner (as well as Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk). In fact, Bixby basically got Sherman Donner the job as he had rejected all the previous script attempts for the She-Hulk pilot.
The plot for the pilot was that Jennifer Walters was an assistant district attorney who is haunted by the murder of her parents as a child (this pilot DID come out a year after Tim Burton’s Batman, after all) and she is currently dedicating her career to proving that a respected businessman is actually a criminal mastermind. She is forced to go on a vacation. She heads to the Caribbean where she runs into David Banner, who presumably faked his death and is living as a pool boy in the Caribbean, with only a doctor friend knowing his secret (the doctor has been helping Banner control his transformation into the Hulk with herbs). Banner and Walters flirt (they are not cousins in this version) but then she is shot by a hit man sent by the businessman that Walters was trying to put in prison. Banner’s doctor friend convinces him to give Jennifer a blood transfusion and she is transformed into the She-Hulk! This is similar to a plot in The Death of the Incredible Hulk, where Banner gives a Russian spy a blood transfusion.
Volleyball player Gabrielle Reece was, indeed, cast as She-Hulk.
This She-Hulk, though, would be like the Ferrigno version of the Hulk and wouldn’t have Jennifer Walters’ intelligence. Former Baywatch actress Mitzki Kapture was cast as Jennifer. That, though, proved to be the downfall of the entire project. The studio was never happy with Kapture as their lead. They kept looking for a bigger name to play Jennifer Walters. They originally wanted Melissa Gilbert, who was not interested. They began filming in the Virgin Islands with Kapture and Bixby, but the whole time they kept going back and forth behind the scenes over whether Kapture was a big enough name to star in the series and whether it was still possible to find someone else. Eventually they decided that she wasn’t and the whole project was canceled.
Reece never even got a chance to be filmed as She-Hulk. There’s another weird aspect to the story that I ended up discussing in a Comic Book Legends Revealed here.
Ironically enough, Mitzi Kapture was then cast as the lead on the TV series Silk Stockings, which lasted four seasons. So Kapture ultimately could handle being the lead in a series! Too late for the She-Hulk, though.
The legend is…
Thanks to Stephonie for the question!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.